We're back hosting this week, so for any and all Tide bloggers, feel free to respond on your own blogs and be sure to e-mail me at rollbamaroll -at- gmail.com with your post so I can include it in the roundup on Friday.
1. What are your feelings on Alabama's current position in the polls? Are we overrated? Underrated? Just right?
I think we're just right at this point, though we could certainly quibble over the #4 ranking in the coach's poll. We'll just ignore that one for the time being, though, and say we're the #2 ranked team right now, and I really can't say that there is no arguing with that assessment. #1 and #2 are pretty much interchangeable at this point (especially considering the close count in the actual votes), and I'm perfectly willing to give OU the nod since, even though they haven't played the same caliber of competition (i.e. Clemson and UGA on the road), they have destroyed everything in their path unlike certain Trojans, Gators, Buckeyes, and what have yous that I could mention. Alabama has had it's share of miscues along the way, and even though I'm of the firm belief that when we are on there is no one in the country more physically dominant and brutally efficient than the Tide on either side of the ball, I'm also aware that we still have some concerns to overcome and consistency issues to correct and am ever so thankful that LSU is in November as opposed to, oh, I don't know, this week.
2. What aspect of the game did Alabama control that shocked you the most? What aspect of the game was Alabama dominated in that shocked you the most?
Most of the punditry and even both fanbases quickly conceded that Alabama had the advantage over Georgia where line play was concerned while UGA had us beat at the skill positions (and at QB especially), so I wasn't shockity shock shocked that we manhandled their d-line and pounded the ball so effortlessly on the ground, but I was shocked/pleased/impressed/giddy like a schoolgirl over how well we pass blocked and how ridiculously sound the play action passing game was. As far as pass blocking went, theJulio reception that set up Upchurch's TD run (you know, where he ran the crazy long crossing route and thought he made it into the EZ but stepped out at the five?) was a perfect example of how impressive our o-line can be. I remember watching the play develop and thinking "he's been in the pocket too long, nothing is open, tuck it and get what you can, quit standing there Wilson, don't take the sack, get moving, don't try to force anything into coverage, FOR GOD'S SAKE MAN JUST TAKE OFF and then, out of seemingly nowhere, here comes Julio wide open and Wilson hits him perfectly in stride. It was an amazing play and it really did seem like JP was in the pocket for an eternity, yet no one even got near him. We haven't seen anything like that for years now, and it almost made this crusty, bitter fan shed a brief (manly) tear over the sheer beauty of a play well designed and executed. And it seemed like it was that way all night. Every pass he threw was as perfect as it could be, and even when he was pressured he made smart decisions, scrambling out or, in the lone incident of a blitzer coming free, just covering the ball and avoiding a turnover. After all the talk about how this was going to be a QB dual and that John Parker Wilson was no Matthew Stafford, after that first quarter you couldn't have given me a thousand Staffords for one John Parker Wilson.
As far as where we were dominated, were we really? UGA got back into it in the second half, and you could say our kick coverage has been fairly poor so far this season, but Georgia's quick flurry of points were more a product of their throwing everything they could at us while the defense loafed a little. The offense looked bad in the third, sure, but how much of that was the game plan turning to "let's go back out there, pound the ball, and eat up this clock?" Probably a good bit of it, and you have to take heart that, when we needed scoring drives to keep the game from getting too close, we go them.
3. Name your player of the game on Offense. Also name one on Defense.
I've already sung the praises of John Parker Wilson plenty, so instead I'll give the nod to Mr. Roy Upchurch. Coffee got some great yardage and Ingram is a beast in the red zone, but Upchurch has really emerged as a legitimate playmaker out of the backfield after being completely written off as a never was, and his catch and run on that third down screen to keep the late drive that sealed the win going was perfect. He caught it, got north/south, and made a couple of guys miss to get big yardage, and that's exactly the kind of effort we need in this offense.
On defense, I have to go with Javier Arenas. The kid is a shutdown corner, no doubt about it, and I'd put him up against any receiver in the league. He blankets guys and plays physical, and I really marvel at the way this staff has turned a kid who's only other 1A offer was Florida International and whom no one expected to be anything more than a kick returner into such a great defensive back.
4. The Wildcats are a very quiet 4-0 with lackluster wins over Louisville, Norfolk State, MTSU, and Western Kentucky. Obviously every game in the SEC is going to be a tough one and the Tide could be in danger of a letdown after such a huge win, so are you at all worried about UK? Why or why not?
I am for two reasons: 1) Until I actually see us go out after a big win and completely dominate without the kind of hangover/sleepwalk we did against Tulane, I'll be nervous about the consistency issues. Once bitten, twice shy and all that. 2) You simply can't take anything for granted in the SEC (or in college football period), and the fact that they are at least winning, if in unspectacular fashion, says something positive about the Wildcats. Chalk some of it up to their level of competition, obvioulsy, but they are playing stingy defense (lead the league in scoring defense with 5.5 a game and are 2nd in the leage in total defense) and at least aren't inefficient on offense, ranking in the top half of the conference in all the major categories save passing (8th), and have given up the fewest sacks in the league (2). So even if they are a quiet and unimpressive team, they are at least a solid team that isn't going to hand you the game, and if we don't come out and play like ourselves, it could be Tulane uncomfortable at BDS for another Saturday.
5. John Parker Wilson is a new man this season, looking like the kind of savvy game manager that can make just enough throws to keep defenses guessing we need in this offense. What's your take on his sudden emergence, and are you comfortable with him under center in clutch situations?
Just the fact that he can trust his o-line to protect him, he has a stable of running backs and a monstrously effective ground game behind him to keep the pressure off, and a deep and talented wide receiver group that will all make plays for him instead of one or two guys that are good but take plays off has to be a huge psychological boost for him. If you look at him now, he understands that the entire offense has to work for the team to move the ball and score points, whereas the last few seasons I always got the sense that he felt he was the one responsible for all of it and had to shoulder the burden alone. And for the most part he did; he couldn't get any blocking, the ground game was ineffective, and even when he did get time to throw his receivers either didn't get open, wouldn't make a play for the ball, or just simply dropped them. Now that he has all the tools necessary around him for the offense to actually function and a lot of the pressure is off of him to be the offense, he can step back and be a game manager, and that's something he's smart enough and talented enough to do. All that being said, I am a lot more comfortable with him under center in clutch situations because he's shown that he can be trusted not to turn the ball over or make the kind of boneheaded mistakes that have plagued him over the past two years. Whether or not he can rally the team from a deficit is a different story since he's done it only once in his career (last year against Arkansas) and we have been fortunate enough to not need to so far, but even then I'm more confident in his decision making and the play calling this year than last, and wouldn't feel at all nervous at the prospect of Wilson leading a come from behind scoring drive.